Care and Safety
Like meat, milk, fish, and other perishable foods, eggs can be served without safety concerns when properly handled and refrigerated.
Bacteria are found everywhere in our environment -- in soil, water, animals, and insects -- so we cannot realistically eliminate all bacteria, but we can take actions to control the growth of harmful bacteria.
Bacteria need food, moisture and, above all, ideal temperature conditions to multiply. Below 4° C and above 60° C there is little or no growth. The secret to preventing bacteria from multiplying is to control these factors.
From the farm to the table, everyone in the chain of custody has a role to play in keeping our food supply safe.
At The Farm
Our hens are provided with secure housing designed for best possible comfort, and the ability to socialize and express natural behaviours. We work with poultry specialists and veterinarians to proactively maintain the health of our hens and make sure that they are eating and drinking as needed. Their diet includes grains, proteins, vitamins, minerals and easy access to fresh water.
"Start Clean-Stay Clean" is an egg producers' program aimed at eliminating opportunities for bacteria growth on the farm. It includes:
- buying pullets, feed and supplements from suppliers with disease prevention programs in place;
- setting up restricted zones - generally the laying house, the egg collection room and the cooler where personnel movement is kept to a minimum and special clothing and cleaning procedures are established;
- pressure washing and sanitizing walls, ceilings, rafters, fans, heaters, cages, drinkers, and feeders;
- removing manure regularly and frequently;
- monitoring and maintaining proper ventilation, air temperature and moisture levels;
- frequent egg collection and quick removal of dirty, cracked or broken eggs;
- storing collected eggs in a cooler or cool room at 11° to 12° C;
- monitoring flock health by recording feed and water intake, rate of lay, egg quality, bird behaviour and appearance.
Our Free Range production is also SPCA Certified; this program is an independent animal welfare certification system. The SPCA Certified program includes:
- Annual and random farm inspections by third party, professional validators
- Independent, expert review panel determines farm certification status
- Formulation of standards by specialists in animal welfare and behaviour
Our poultry farm is inspected regularly to help us to ensure that we are following program requirements.
We stamp a 28-day Best Before date on our egg cartons to ensure maximum freshness and Grade A quality. Eggs that have been properly refrigerated can still be eaten up to one month past the code date without fear of safety, however the eggs will likely be runny so they’ll be a little harder to cook with if you intend to fry them, and they will not perform as well for delicate baking such as creating meringues where a high albumen (egg white) is preferred. If you cook eggs that are past the Best Before date, please be sure to cook them thoroughly.
Maintaining the appropriate temperature level is the primary concern of the transporter. Too warm a temperature provides an opportunity for bacteria to grow and overall egg quality to be reduced. When trucks arrive at our facility the temperature is checked prior to unloading; if it is too low the load is rejected. We also check the temperature of trucks prior to loading them at our facility to confirm that the refrigeration system is functioning properly.
At the Grading Station
Sparks Egg Farms is certified for HACCP, BRC, and CSI for organic certification. We take extensive steps to protect food safety, serving the best interests of producers, retailers and consumers, including:
- careful control of environment and all persons handling eggs to ensure sanitary conditions;
- diligent control of temperature and humidity levels;
- prompt processing to ensure eggs do not remain waiting in refrigerated storage more than 24 hours;
- wash and sanitize with brushes and detergent at optimum temperature to remove dirt from the shell and kill bacteria;
- thorough inspection of eggs to ensure no internal flaws or breach in shell;
- integrity of packaging materials verified and stored in controlled environment;
- intensive data control to be able to follow each egg to its producer and date of origin;
- Best Before Date stamped on cartons;
- eggs labelled with tracking info using approved food quality vegetable dies (not ink).
Agriculture and Agri-food Canada inspects all registered egg grading stations to verify satisfaction with plant sanitation and operating conditions.
The steps that we take to ensure that each egg can be traced to origin exceed regulated requirements, however we take our responsibility very seriously. If there is ever cause for concern with a batch of eggs we will be able to respond immediately to track and isolate the eggs so they can be destroyed.
At The Store
We recommend to retailers that they refrigerate eggs at 4° to 5° C immediately upon receipt and rotate stock so "First In" is "First Out".
Once you bring eggs home, refrigerate them in their cartons until ready for use. Eggshells are porous and absorb odours very easily, but cartons protect them from possible cross-contamination from other foods and maintain their fresh quality longer. Be sure to check the carton for eggs that might have cracked in transportation and discard them.
When you are preparing eggs (or any perishable food), keep these tips in mind:
- always wash your hands first;
- wash utensils used for raw eggs before reusing for other raw foods or cooked products that includes knives and cutting boards;
- serve hot foods hot and cold foods cold;
- do not allow foods to sit at room temperature for a long period of time;
- leftovers should be refrigerated in covered containers immediately after serving;
- do not mix leftovers from the serving table with other food that is still on the stove or in the refrigerator, since the difference in temperatures can stimulate bacteria growth;
- use leftovers within four days.
A Word from our Poultry Specialist
Ken Severson is the Nutrition and Poultry Specialist for Sparks Egg Farms. Ken takes care to make sure the hens and pullets are fed a balanced diet, and to safeguard their health and welfare.
The 4 Pillars
At Sparks Egg Farms we respect 4 important pillars of responsibility.
Read more on 4 Pillars
Our new facility in Westlock, Alberta, is a proud example of our strong commitment to sustainability.